IT/OT convergence creates opportunities for industrial code

Incorporating DevOps for industrial purposes, termed "Industrial DevOps," can bring about a sea change for manufacturers.

By Tyler Wall September 1, 2023
Courtesy: CFE Media and Technology

Tyler’s Take

  • Industrial code is going be a growing conversation in the manufacturing marketplace — especially as we press forth into an era of digital transformation and with the increasing number of connected industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) devices appearing on the plant floor.
  • This will be imperative to increase plant efficiency and better use of uptime. IT/OT convergence will be a part of the conversation as the phrase “Industrial DevOps” starts to appear around the topic of industrial code.

DevOps, a term firmly entrenched in the lexicon of software engineering, has its roots in lean manufacturing. Yet, despite these origins, industrial code today seems to be mired in outmoded processes and tools that pose significant challenges. Ben O’Rourke, chief revenue officer of Copia Automation, spoke about the power of Industrial DevOps at Smart Manufacturing 4.0 USA conference in Detroit in his presentation “The Power of Industrial Devops: Driving Efficiency and Performance in Automotive Manufacturing.”

Typically, we often fail to recognize monumental shifts in our world as they occur. Reflecting on historical business success stories, from the rise of Apple to the dominance of Microsoft, it’s evident these titans were able to seize opportunities and address challenges head-on during significant inflection points. Currently, we may be on the precipice of such a transformative moment:

  • Demographic labor shortage: Deloitte and the U.S. Manufacturing Institute project a shortage of 2.8 million workers by 2030. This scenario is even more pronounced in nations such as Germany and Japan.

  • End of peak globalization: With events like Russia’s invasion of Ukraine marking the culmination of an era initiated by the Reagan interest rate cuts in 1982, the world is witnessing a surge in capital expenditure (CapEx). Countries are heavily investing in their ecosystems, from semiconductor manufacturing to climate change technology.

  • Mega CapEx projects: According to Bloomberg, North America alone has plans for $430 billion worth of industrial projects, each surpassing the billion-dollar mark.

The logical solution to these challenges seems to be automation. However, the hurdles in implementing automation are not necessarily technical. The primary issues revolve around the shortage of skilled personnel to code and deploy these automated systems.

The quandary of industrial code

Trillions of dollars in global production are hinged on tools that are outdated and fragmented. The world of industrial code is marked by:

  • Fragmentation: From programmable logic controllers (PLCs) and robots to computer numerical control (CNC) machines and 3D printers, the spectrum of industrial automation is vast. Each category boasts 10-50 competitors, each reliant on proprietary coding systems.

  • Archaic systems: Many still utilize Windows 32-bit applications for coding, which offers no interoperability.

  • Economic implications: This broken tool chain leads to massive global economic costs, with downtime in manufacturing alone accounting for $4.2 trillion annually.

The role of IT/OT convergence in industrialOps

The convergence of IT and operational technology (OT) is becoming a pivotal point of discussion in the modern industrial landscape. Despite the numerous advancements in IT, particularly the principles of DevOps, OT still largely relies on outdated processes and tools. These archaic methods not only hinder deployment but also pose substantial economic consequences.

However, there’s an increasing realization of the potential benefits of integrating IT’s DevOps principles into the realm of OT, a concept known as “Industrial DevOps.” This integration can streamline processes, improve quality control and significantly reduce downtime. By harnessing the robustness of IT’s DevOps approach, industries can modernize the way they handle operational technology, optimizing both the coding and deployment of industrial systems.

Tyler Wall, associate editor, CFE Media and Technology,

Author Bio: Tyler Wall is an associate editor for CFE Media and Technology